Olga Shishkina (b.1985 Leningrad) is a Russian born kantele and gusli musician whose style was influenced by deep interest and studies of different instruments and musical genres. She has become one of the main characters i n the process of “reintroducing” Russian gusli and Finnish kantele to the music world by breaking national and stylistical limitations. Olga started to play Russian gusli at the age of 8 and already after 2 years of playing it she was taking part in a number of competitions. At the age of 16 Olga got 2nd prize at the prestigious 6th All-Russian Competition thus becoming the youngest prize-winner in the competitionʼs history. Since then her musical journey around the world began – it led her to play in the UK, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, USA, Japan, Switzerland…
In 2003-2008 she studied at St. Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory majoring in gusli and in the meantime attending piano, organ and orchestral conducting classes. After graduating with the highest honors Olga moved to Helsinki and started Masterʼs degree studies in Finnish concert kantele at Sibelius Academy. At the same time, following her interest to jazz, she also studied jazz piano as a secondary instrument with Jussi Fredriksson. Jazz piano studies helped to find new ways of expression and in 2009 she started a duo project “Off limits” with one of the most respected Finnish guitarists Timo Kämäräinen where for the first time ever electric kantele was used in jazz context.
After completing Masterʼs degree in spring 2012 she has been concentrating on exploring the opportunities of the electric kantele in improvisational music further. Being one of those flexible musicians who feel comfortable in a variety of styles, she has worked with Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, St. Petersburg Cappella Symphony Orchestra, Lapland Chamber Orchestra and others. In 2011 she got the 3rd prize plus the special prize from the Society of Finnish composers for the best performance of modern music at the First International Kantele Competition (Jukka Linkola’s “Terracotta lady”).
During last years Olga has been actively involved as an electric kantele player in improvisational music and appeared as a guest musician on following records: Brazilian Aeroplane record “Simetria: Bo Kasper in Brazil” (2010), Saara Aaltoʼs album “Angels” (2011) and Pepe Deluxe “Queen of the Wave” (2012).
Her interest to Asia also led her to learn to play Chinese guzheng. As a guzheng player she appeared at “Musiikin aika” modern music festival in 2009 and took part in the documentary production of Kati Juurus’ “Kaksi miestä Kiinasta”.